He is Able

Started in on Jude a couple of mornings ago in wonder that I was a kept man for Jesus (Jude 1:1b). Redeemed not only from my sin, but to Himself, “that where I am you may be also” (Jn. 14:3). How amazing is that? Pretty amazing.

This morning. as I hover over the closing promise of Jude, I’m reminded that being kept only means something if the one doing the keeping can keep.

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

(Jude 24-25 ESV)

The only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, is able to keep those He has called to be kept. He is able.

Purposes, provisions, promises are all well and good. But without power — without the ability to act on those purposes, provide those provisions, and make good on those promises — it’s what I referred to in my corporate days as “vapor-ware.” Nice packaging, however not much practical benefit.

But God is able. Able to keep me from stumbling beyond recovery. Trip ups and slip ups, even crashes and burns, covered through the finished work of the cross — the blood of Christ able to cleanse me from all my sins. What’s more, the active agency of the Spirit of resurrection within me, able to restore, renew, and re-energize my desire and ability to walk in the way of the kingdom of heaven for the praise of the King of heaven.

Yes, God is able. Able to present Me before His glorious presence. Mortal meeting the Eternal. Those set apart as holy here and now, soon there and then to stand in the presence of Him who is holy, holy, holy. Blameless. Righteous. Fit for a King, because they are clothed in the King’s righteousness.

Yessir! I am a kept man only because He is a keeping God.

I am sure of my future, because He is steadfast in His love.

I purpose to live according to the promise, because He is able to act according to His infinite power.

He is able to keep me by His grace. He is able to keep me for His glory.

Keep on keepin’, Lord!

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A Kept Man

Not a big deal, really. Not a big deal, literally. It’s the difference between a three-letter word and a two-letter word. But as I chew on it this morning, it’s the difference of being thankful for feeling secure versus being in awe as, with all the blood-bought saints of God, I realize I’m kind of special. Either way, praising God this morning that I am a kept man.

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.

(Jude 1-2 ESV)

Kept for Jesus Christ. Or, as it says in my footnotes, could be kept by Jesus Christ.

Kept. Preserved, according to King James. Literally, to attend to carefully; to guard; to reserve, or withhold for personal ends. It’s that last possible nuanced meaning I think that tips it for the ESV translators.

And hey, whether it’s for or by, what kind of wave of gratitude washes over you as you noodle on the fact that God the Father has determined to call you, love you, and keep you? A pretty big wave, I’m thinking.

So if it’s “only” kept by His blessed Son, how soul-soothing is that? The finished work of the cross sufficient to atone for our sins, all of our sins — past, present, and future. The intercessory work of the risen, ascended Christ able to save to the uttermost “since He always lives to make intercession” for us (Heb. 7:25).

Because we are kept by Jesus Christ we can be assured that, truly, the work God has begun in us He will complete in us (Php. 1:6). Even when we may feel like we’re losing our grip, His grip is steadfast and sure. Our Savior assuring us of eternal life as He is confident that we “will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand” (Jn. 10:28).

Kept by Jesus? To be sure. What blessed security and assurance.

But kept for Jesus, as well? Hmmm . . .

Not just rescued, not just redeemed, but reconciled to Him and for Him.

He wants us. Not that He needs us. Not because of who we are, nor because of what we can bring to the relationship. In fact, wonder of wonders, He wants us despite what we’ve done, the penalty for which sent Him to the cross.

Still, He wants us. The way a Bridegroom desires His bride (Eph. 5:25-27). And so we are kept for Jesus. That’s why He’s preparing a place for us and has promised to come for us and take us to Himself “that where I am you may be also” (Jn. 14:3b). Thus, even as we walk into this day, we are being kept for Jesus.

Oh, who am we to merit such favor? Wrong question.

Who is He? The glorious, gracious, King of kings and Lord of lords. The Head of the church. The blessed Bridegroom.

Jaw-dropping. Love evoking. Worthy of all our worship.

I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine. (Song of Solomon 6:3 ESV)

A kept man.

Only by His grace. Only for His glory.

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Lessons from a Jerk

I know that all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for our teaching and equipping (2Tim. 3:16). I know that while none of these books were written to us, they were all written for us — “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction” (Rom. 15:4). So, as I hover over Job 20 this morning, I am trying to figure out what I am supposed to picking up from what’s being laid down here.

Continuing the back and forth debate between Job’s position of “I did nothing wrong to deserve this” and his so-called friends counter-argument, “Oh yeah? You must of, or all that’s happened to you wouldn’t have happened to you.” Chapter 20 hands over the podium to Zophar. Z, you have three minutes to state your argument.

Zophar’s basic argument? God will judge the wicked with terrible stuff. You are have suffered terrible stuff. Ergo, you must be wicked. (Actually, Z’s a little more eloquent than that).

Do you not know this from of old, since man was placed on earth, that the exulting of the wicked is short, and the joy of the godless but for a moment? Though his height mount up to the heavens, and his head reach to the clouds, he will perish forever like his own dung; those who have seen him will say, ‘Where is he?’ . . . Utter darkness is laid up for his treasures; a fire not fanned will devour him; what is left in his tent will be consumed. The heavens will reveal his iniquity, and the earth will rise up against him. The possessions of his house will be carried away, dragged off in the day of God’s wrath. This is the wicked man’s portion from God, the heritage decreed for him by God.”

(Job 20:4-7, 26-29 ESV)

Check that out. Those are the words of someone come to “comfort” Job who has lost all his possessions, all his children, and is covered in open sores. What a jerk!

Not too compassionate sounding. Not really all that understanding. He’s pretty cocky and sure of himself when it comes to discerning the purposes of heaven as to why his buddy is being slammed on earth. I’m pretty sure this is how not to do it.

So what’s the profit in noodling on this? Why chew on it? What instruction am I to pick up from this jerk?

Maybe it’s about how not to be a jerk.

I can know the will of God (the wicked will be judged), but I need to be careful in thinking I have a handle on all the ways of God. Suffering could be judgment. But maybe not. Suffering could also be sanctifying.

Seems to me that when it comes to the long-game, the 30,000 foot view of what God has in mind, I think I can have a reasonable assurance, based on the Scriptures, as to what God’s gonna do. But when it comes to the details, to connecting the dots in the here and now, I need to have a certain humility in my “discernment.” And, for sure I need to have a whole lot of compassion for those whose lives are turned upside down and trying to figure out a reason why.

I think reading the Scriptures as a mirror isn’t a bad practice, even when it comes to trying to figure out a guy like Z.

At the least it can be a warning. Who knows, it might even be a reflection that leads me in God’s kindness to repentance and by God’s grace again to the cross.

Huh. Maybe you can learn lessons from a jerk.

By God’s grace. For God’s glory.

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A Revealer of Mysteries (2011 Rerun)

RRF . . . Rerun Friday. It’s a thing. Actually, it’s not a thing. But this morning it will be. Here’s some thoughts on my opening reading in Daniel from 10 years ago.


The story is classic . . . King eats too much before bedtime . . . king goes to sleep . . . supper starts fighting back . . . king has weird dream . . . king calls his magicians, astrologers, and sorcerers . . . king tells them the weird, digestive induced visions he had during the night . . . the court jesters get all creative and come up with a good tale on what the king’s dream means . . . king feels important that even his cramped colon can produce such great truths . . . king’s counselors feel important that they could be so wise as to interpret gastric goings on . . . game, set, match . . . we’ll play again another day. But in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign (Daniel 2:1), the rules of the game were to take a sudden change . . . and the stage was set to introduce to a pagan king a Revealer of Mysteries

On that night, the dreams was different. They were vivid and they were troubling to the core. Not just about some tossing and turning, but shake-you-to-your-core frightening, so that there was no sleep to be had. And the king wanted answers . . . no game playing . . . he wanted the truth . . . he wanted to understand what it was all about and so, he called his “wise men” to him and required that before interpreting the dream that they demonstrate they were really in the know by first recounting the dream to him. Nope . . . uh, uh . . ain’t going to happen . . . “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh” (Daniel 2:10-11).

Well, they got it part right . . . no man was going to meet the king’s test. But, there is a God who dares to dwell among flesh . . . the God who seeks to redeem those He created in His own image . . . the God who desires to tabernacle with His people . . . the God of heaven . . . the God who is a Revealer of Mysteries.

If you go just on repetition alone, the core message of Daniel 2 has got to be that the God of heaven (2:18, 19, 28, 37, 44) is a Revealer of Mysteries (2:19, 28, 29, 47). Sure, we can get caught up with Daniel’s prophetic interpretation of the the king’s dream, but if we step back just a bit, how amazing is it that the God of heaven has determined to reveal the secrets of heaven to mere mortals? I’m thinkin’ pretty amazing!

I can be so comfortable with the concepts of the faith . . . that Christ is God come in the flesh . . . that Jesus died and rose again the third day as an atoning sacrifice for all my sin — past, present, and future . . . that righteousness is credited to all who believe Jesus is the Lamb of God and own Him as Lord of All . . . that Jesus is even now preparing a place for us and that our mortal bodies will give way to immortality . . . and the list goes on.

But this morning “comfort” gives way to awe. That the God of heaven . . . He whose ways are higher than my ways . . . He whose thought are so beyond anything I could conceive . . . that He would reveal, by His grace, the secrets of the kingdom to a person of darkened understanding . . . that He would illuminate our minds to grasp in some measure such out-of-this-world revelation.

It occurs to me, that by God’s grace, I’m kind of like Daniel in that the God of heaven has revealed to me deep and profound mysteries . . . that, by His grace, He has given me the mind of Christ (1Cor. 2:16) . . . that, through His abiding Spirit, He leads me into truth.

Oh, that I might respond like Daniel and bless the God of heaven . . . the Revealer of Mysteries!

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
to whom belong wisdom and might.
He changes times and seasons;
He removes kings and sets up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding;
He reveals deep and hidden things;
He knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with Him.
To You, O God of my fathers,
I give thanks and praise . . . ”

(Daniel 2:20-22 ESV)

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A Whole Lot of Testifying Going On

Testimony. A solemn declaration of what is true or actual.

Testify. To bear witness. To give evidence or proof of something existing or being the case.

Hovering over 1John 5:6-12 this morning. And there’s a whole lot of testifying going on.

In this passage the Spirit testifies. The water and the blood testify. There is the testimony of God. And whoever believes has the testimony in themselves.

What are they giving proof of? What evidence are they presenting as to what is actual and true?

And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

(1John 5:11-12 ESV)

Be it known, says John, Jesus is the Son of God. Be it known, God have given eternal life. Be it known, that life is in His Son.

How important is it that Jesus is the Christ? Pretty important. How important that He is God incarnate? Pretty important-er.

That’s why John has already urged us children in the faith to “not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1Jn. 4:1).

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

(1John 4:1-2 ESV)

Jesus is the Son of God. That’s the truth we have in ourselves.

Evidenced by the water of baptism, God testifying Himself that Jesus was His beloved Son. Proven by the blood shed on Calvary, that God became flesh to be the once for all atoning sacrifice for sin (for “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22)). Corroborated by the power of the Spirit who raised Him from the dead and now lives in us, so that we too have this testimony in ourselves.

Thus we testify,

God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.

Not sure what to do with this. For now, just in awe of what we’re to know. Amazed by the reminder of what is.

Jesus is the Son of God and whoever has Jesus has life. That’s our testimony. Of that we’ll testify. And we’re in good company.

This is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior all the day long!

The enduring evidence of God’s grace. The enduring acclamation for God’s glory.

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By This We Know – Part II

Yesterday, I was reminded that our salvation is more than just a profession of faith, it is more so a possession of the evidences of faith. That to claim you believe in a certain truth will manifest itself in that you behave in a certain way. That by this we know He abides in us, that we love not only in word or talk but in deed and in truth (1Jn. 3:18-19, 24-25).

But John’s not done. This morning he narrows down “deed and truth” and focuses on the need to love one another.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. . . Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.

(1John 4:7, 11-13 ESV)

Loving the brethren, and the sistren (it’s a word, check it out). By this we know that our salvation is the real thing. Family affection, extending goodwill, willing to love fellow believers as Christ loved us into believing, that’s how we know this whole abiding dynamic is actually “dynamic-ing.”

Can’t see God. No one has. But know God living in and through us? Experience evidences of His presence and power? Witness the ways of Spirit on spirit melding? That can be seen — as we love one another.

Hover over 1John 4:7-21 and tell me you don’t get how important it is that we love one another? Not just for our good (though knowing God is pretty good), but that God’s glory may be known in a world where, as lawlessness increases, “the love of many will grow cold” (Matt 24:12). Loving the church (the people not the institution, the building, or the programs) is integral to advancing the mission. The church hanging together is visible evidence of a hope that is real in a world that is falling apart.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” ~ Jesus

(John 13:34-35 ESV)

Love one another as God has loved you.

By this we’ll know that the abiding thing is a real thing.

By this the world will know the power of the gospel is also a real thing.

Because of God’s grace. For God’s glory.

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By This We Know

I do wonder sometimes if over decades of a “seeker-friendly” approach to the gospel we have put too much stock in the profession of faith rather than in the possession of the evidences of faith. That when we ask for someone’s testimony, because we are so protective of grace being understood as a free gift, we expect only to hear how someone came to believe and expect almost nothing of how they currently behave.

But to talk of obedience isn’t legalism. To expect that those saved by God through the Son would walk according to the commandment of God by the Spirit, doesn’t cheapen grace. According to John, it actually validates grace.

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before Him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do what pleases Him. And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as He has commanded us. Whoever keeps His commandments abides in God, and God in Him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.

(1John 3:18-24 ESV)

We can know that we are of the truth because we love in deed and truth. We can boldly approach God’s throne of grace with our prayers, confident He will hear us, because we keep His commandments and do what pleases Him. We know we’re abiding when we see we’re obeying, for whoever keeps His commandments abides in God. The Spirit will take the reality of our walk and affirm the reality of our faith. It’s by this we know.

To be clear, not saying that obedience saves us. Just saying that if we’re saved we’re gonna wanna walk in His commandments.

To be clear again, not saying that obedience is absent failure — after all, Jesus knows up close and personal the struggle of man in his current form. That though the spirit may be willing the flesh too often is weak (Mt. 26:41). But if we are serious about keeping His commandments we’ll also be serious about keeping short accounts. That when, not if, we stumble, fumble, and fall, we’ll pick ourselves up, make our way to the cross, and confess our sin knowing He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1Jn. 1:9). Repentance is also an integral command to obey in the Christian walk. And it’s by this we know also that we really have been born again.

To believe is to behave. To be saved is to be sanctified. By this we know that we are of the truth. By this we know He abides in us. By this we’ll encourage others to walk as Jesus calls us to walk. By this we’ll exhort, admonish, and even rebuke one another so that we might together be reassured in heart before Him — that we truly are His and that He truly lives in us.

By this we know.

Because of grace. For His glory.

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It Makes All the Difference

Continuing to try to track the argument of a man racked with pain — emotional, spiritual, and physical. Job’s getting bolder but, at least for this guy in the chair, not always clearer. Nevertheless, here’s what I’m picking up from what I think Job’s laying down in chapter 14.

Job is operating in an “under the sun” mode. The same mode Solomon was in as he wrote Ecclesiastes. Not “under the sun” as in there’s no God above the sun. But “under the sun” as in this is it folks, your years are but threescore and ten, or if you’re really strong fourscore (Ps. 90:10). So if this is it, why should God care? Or as Job puts it to God, “Since [man’s] days are determined . . . look away from him and leave him alone” (Job 14:5-6).

Leave me alone God. That appears to be Job’s bottom line with his “under the sun” paradigm. As Sovereign You’ve appointed my days and numbered my months, I’m okay with that. And, just as a river eventually “wastes away and dries up”, so too “a man lies down and rises not again” (14:11-12). So, let me take the days You’ve allotted, and I will honor You for those days during those days (Job 1:21), but leave me alone. This suffering makes no sense if all there is life under the sun. In fact, by allowing such things to happen “You destroy the hope of man” (14:19).

A logical argument perhaps. But only if you get one crucial question wrong.

“If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my service I would wait, till my renewal should come.”

(Job 14:14 ESV)

Can the dead live again? If so, this would give me hope through all my years of struggle, and I would eagerly await the release of death.

(Job 14:14 NLT)

Resurrection. That would make sense of a life seemingly filled with train-wrecks. If a man dies and lives again, then we have some greater context to put present suffering within. If there is “renewal” to come then there just might be purpose in pain. If something is happening in the really, really hard here and now that prepares us for a much, much better there and then, maybe I can endure it (with some divine assistance).

“If a man dies, shall he live again?”

That’s the question Job’s not answering correctly. That’s the missing piece in Job’s enigmatic puzzle. Resurrection.

Hmm, “coincidence” that this reading is on the same day as my reading in John 11.

Jesus said to [Martha], “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

(John 11:25-26 ESV)

Do I believe this? If yes, then it changes everything. While it doesn’t answer the why of suffering, it does provide the hope that there will be a what — that present suffering fits into a future context. While it doesn’t ease the pain, it contains it to but a season as we anticipate that day and place when we rise again and God will “wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

“If a man dies, shall he live again?”

Yes! Absolutely! You betcha’! Count on it!

It makes all the difference.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

(Romans 8:18 ESV)

Sustained in our suffering by His abundant grace. Saved through our suffering for His eternal glory.

Amen?

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Abide and Obey

Short thought this morning. Something out of 1 John. Not overly complicated but a source of great confidence. A to do which, John says, will have a directly connect “to be.” A purposeful pursuit which will have a practical payout. I think, if I’m picking up what John’s laying down, when we abide we’ll obey.

And now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears we may have confidence and not shrink from Him in shame at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of Him.

(1John 2:28-29 ESV)

Seems there were forces at play trying to destabilize the believers John was writing to (2:26). What a surprise. Not. Plethora are the ways the enemy can deploy to try and get us off our game. To distract us from the prize. To confuse us as to our purpose. To deflect us from the power.

But we have an anointing (2:27). An anointing we’ve received from Jesus. An anointing that abides in us. An anointing that is true and can keep us straight. An anointing from Him through which we can abide in Him.

And if abide in Him, we’ll walk like Him. Not in perfection, but in persistent purpose, palpable power, and perceptible practice.

If He abides in us through the anointing, and we abide in Him through the anointing, then if He is righteous (and He is), then we’ll be marked as those who practice righteousness. We’ll walk as He walked because our walk will be sourced fully in remaining in Him and not in reliance upon our best efforts at remaking ourselves. To tarry with Jesus will result in taking on Jesus. To remain in Him will be to have Him reflected through us. Our abiding will result in our obeying as His indwelling has it’s outworking.

Simple. But not a gimme. Foundational. So worth pursuing.

If trust and obey is the what of following Christ, I’m thinking that abide and obey is the how.

Only by His grace. Only for His glory.

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Speaking for Him Who is Manifold in Understanding

They were triple-teaming him. Eliphaz has tried to make sense of Job’s trouble, “As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same” (Job 4:8) — Job, you musta’ done something wrong! After Job defends himself, Eliphaz then tags in Bildad, “How long will you say these things, and the words of your mouth be a great wind? Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty pervert the right?” But Job’s having none of it. He doubles down . . . literally — “I am in the right . . I am in the right” (Job 9:15, 20). So his buddies bring in the clean-up hitter, Zophar, “Should a multitude of words go unanswered, and a man full of talk be judged right? Should your babble silence men, and when you mock, shall no one shame you?” (Job 11:1-2)

But here’s the thing that’s got me thinking this morning. It’s not like these “friends” are totally off base. In the midst of their “comforting,” they will speak truth concerning God. Seems to me the problem lies in their arrogance in thinking they know exactly how to apply that truth in Job’s case.

Here’s an example of some truth spoken by Zophar:

“But oh, that God would speak and open His lips to you, and that He would tell you the secrets of wisdom! For He is manifold in understanding. . . . Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?”

(Job 11:5-6a, 7 ESV)

God holds the secrets of wisdom. Check! God is manifold in understanding. Check! The deep things of God are beyond finding out. Check! The Almighty is without limits, not gonna fit in a box of our own making. Check! It sure would be helpful if God were to break heaven’s sound barrier, right here and right now, and let you in on what’s happening behind the scenes. True statement.

But here’s where I think Z and friends go off the rails. Given that God isn’t speaking from heaven, they’re going to do His speaking for Him. Even though God’s wisdom is secret, His understanding manifold, and His deep things are without limit, they’re pretty sure they know what’s going down — so they’ll speak for Him.

Rather than knowing what they know about God causing them to be humbled before God, they think they know enough about an incomprehensible God to speak for Him. Job can’t figure it out, what makes them think they can? Pride, perhaps?

Not saying that we can’t speak with authority and conviction about the things of God. But that should be in matters where God has already clearly spoken through His word. In other matters, matters of applying principles, discerning situations, and wondering as to root cause, I’m thinking a measure of humility is appropriate when trying to speak for Him who is manifold in understanding. That in discerning the mind of God, the heart of God — a heart which is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex. 34:6) — should temper our application of the word of God in matters that clearly have not been spoken to directly by God.

Just thinking that if Zophar & Co. listened to their own correct assessment of who God is they wouldn’t have been so quick to assert that they knew what only God knows. That there’s some care to be taken when speaking for Him who is manifold in understanding.

We’re all gonna draw alongside someone at some point who’s going through something that doesn’t make sense. I wanna be a true friend and real comforter. Seems to me putting on humility and acknowledging mystery might come into play.

Trusting in God’s grace. Wanting only God’s glory.

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